Thursday, 12 September 2013

A veggie in Grenoble

 Vegetarianism may seem difficult in France what with all the “jambon” sneaked into everything, but veganism can be even more daunting. Often rare veggie options like gratin and crepes are swimming in butter, cream and cheese.  Both vegetarianism and veganism are however well represented in Modern day France. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and products which cater for this life choice.

Bio shops often sell a wide range of veggie and vegan products, though at least in Grenoble these are not always exclusively animal free. They often sell organic meats, fish oils and cans of tuna.  With a little bit of French vocabulary under your sleave, they can however be very useful. “Végétalien” vs “vegetarian". "Sans oeufs, sans lait, sans viande, sans poisson, sans poulet.” 

Cheese can be a great option for veggies, though do  look out for “prèsure animale”, which is in fact animal rennet.  If buying in a fromagerie it might be worth checking whether this is an ingredient. Likewise, check for meat stock in soups when ordering seemingly vegetarian options. French onion soup, for example, is usually made with beef stock (and loaded with animal rennet laden cheese). Make sure you recognize the word for ham (jambon) too. This ingredient often makes its way into otherwise vegetarian sandwiches and salads.

Vegans are well accommodated for in those bio shops, though the products are often expensive. Some tofu dishes include cheese as an added ingredient, so be careful for that too. Usually on offer in such shops are various varieties of tofu, today in Satoriz I saw  Tofu affumé (smoked), tofu curry (self-explanatory) and Tofu Français (marinated in herbes de provence). Ready made seitan is also an option for those who can eat gluten, which can make for a nice alternative to soya products. Beans, chickpeas and lentils are very common and amongst the cheaper products on the market. 

 If in need of something in a supermarket, the soja sun company has a range of veggie steaks and burgers which are gluten free, vegan, and I have so far seen the following flavours: Indian, tomato and basil, and classic. 

Both bio shops and supermarkets alike cater for a vegan sweet tooth, with many vegan biscuits, soya yogurts and desserts, and plenty of really good dark chocolate. Very good sorbets are readily available, and often dark chocolate ice cream is also made without milk (you had better ask). 

Being a good vegetarian, your diet (should be) is likely to be based on fruit and vegetables. France rules for fresh produce, so you are in for a spot of luck. Throughout the week there are various markets in town which sell a colourful selection of seasonal produce. I am yet to buy something, but can see me popping back come pumpkin and fennel season.

There WAS a purely vegetarian restaurant, le Mandragore which just closed so I missed out on, though it has been replaced by the apparently veggie-friendly bio restaurant Léchelle de la Grenouille. New to the scene, there is a vegetarian and vegan Italian restaurant, Sapori Antichi, which has rave reviews so far. Happy cow also points out that there is also a veggie and vegan friendly restaurant, Au clair de lune which could be worth visiting. 

Vegetarians and vegans are unlikely to encounter problems here, as many sushi, Indian and crepe restaurants have plenty of options. Don’t expect to find much at chain fastfood restaurants. Mcdonalds in the UK may have at least one veggie option, but here it is all meat, as is the French chain Quick. Vegans are likely to find that traditional alpine restaurants are off limits, though the Provençal cuisine offers more naturally vegan options, such as the famous and now widespread Ratatouille, a vegetable stew made from aubergines, red peppers, courgettes, onions, garlic, tomatoes and olive oil. Nice is also famous for its borrowing from Ligurian cuisine, the socca. It is basically a galette made from chickpeas flour, olive oil, water and salt. It is traditionally egg free and dairy free. Despite not being very common in other parts of France, it is very easy to find the ingredients (chickpea/gram flour: farine de pois chiche) and to make it at home.

Though the presence of meat and dairy may seem quite strong in this traditional mountain town, there is also a counter-culture; the mountain air, bicycle-beaten paths and health conscientiousness of the general population has made les Grenoblois cut back on their consumption of animal derived products. 


  1. Hi! I'm from Sweden and are currently in Grenoble with my friend. We are both vegan and naturally we found your blog. We are studying french but it's an internet course so we could pretty much settle anywhere we like. We want to meet people that we can talk french to, perhaps in a vegan community (though there doesn't seem to be one in Grenoble), perhaps something else. Would you recommend Grenoble as a city to settle down in for a few months? Reply if you feel like it :) /Sarah and Sara

  2. Hi Sarah and Sara, I would definitely recommend Grenoble! There is not a massive vegan community in Grenoble, but vegans do exist! Whilst you are unlikely to find the variety you would find in a big city such as Paris or Lyon, Grenoble offers a lot considering its size. Organic shops are common and they offer many tofu and soya products, almond, oat and rice based cream and milk, a few more decadent things like vegan cookies. Satoritz is a great shop. The big supermarkets such as casino géant offer many suitable products too. I would try and take part in a local past time such as climbing, hiking or skiing to meet people and talk to them in French. Couchsurfing is a great resource for this. When the weather conditions are poor, try yoga with the aim of meeting like-minded people. There is a veggie group on couchsurfing too. If you have any more questions just ask. I loved Grenoble-small but there's everything you need really. Plus there's a great online vegan store, from which you can order a lot.